The national debt clock ticks along endlessly, but never fear, your tax dollars are hard at work trying to gauge the accuracy of the Internet using weather balloons. It may sound silly, but the experiment was actually concocted by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) in an attempt to learn how much trust they should put in information gathered from social networking channels such as Facebook and Twitter. The test involved launching balloons from 10 undisclosed locations across the United States, and offered prize money to the team that did the best job of reporting on their locations.
Over 4,000 groups competed in the event, but the winner of the contest was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Mit) which won the $40,000 grand prize. It remains to be seen what the conclusions of the experiment were, but I think we would all be a bit more interested in finding out what exactly this proves to begin with. Maybe the whole Tiger Woods scandal was part 1 of the test. If that's true, I think its safe to say the Internet failed pretty miserably on that one.
Can information gathered from social networks be trusted?
There are few things in life as uncomplicated as driving a car. Really, there’s not all that much to it. Turn the key, engine revs up, put it into gear, point it in the right direction, step on the gas, and off you go. The Federal Highway Administration tells us that in 2004 the United States had 199 million drivers and 237 million cars. How hard can it be if nearly 90% of adults can drive?
As simple as this task is, there are all sorts of folks who want to make it easier. Modern cars are replete with little reminders: Do we have enough gas? Did we leave a door open? Are our headlights still on? But that doesn’t seem to be enough. Others want to make sure we know not only all about the car, but all about the entire transportation infrastructure that surrounds the car. TomTom will give us directions on how to get back and forth from work. (We haven’t figured that out?) And OnStar will tell us that we were in an accident. (How do we manage to miss something like that?)
What can AIDA do? According to Assaf Biderman, an associate director of the SENSEable City Lab: “Within a week AIDA will have figured out your home and work location. Soon afterwards the system will be able to direct you to your preferred grocery store, suggesting a route that avoids a street fair-induced traffic jam. On the way AIDA might recommend a stop to fill up your tank, upon noticing that you are getting low on gas. AIDA can also give you feedback on your driving, helping you achieve more energy efficiency and safer behavior.” First, if you can’t do this stuff you really shouldn’t be driving. Second, one nag in the car is quite enough, thank you.
Can a person's sexual preference be revealed simply by looking at their online Facebook friends? Yes it can, say two students from MIT who have developed a software program that purports to do just that. By looking at the gender and sexuality of a person's Facebook friends, the program uses statistical analysis to predict the likelihood that someone is gay or straight.
"When they first did it, it was absolutely striking - we said, 'Oh my God - you can actually put some computation behind that,'" said Hal Abelson, a computer science professor at MIT. "That pulls the rug out from a whole policy and technology perspective that the point is to give you control over your information - because you don't have control over your information."
The project, which the MIT students have dubbed "Gaydar," is just one of many that seek to analyze social networks and find out what the connections between people might be revealing, such as whether or not someone is likely to be a terrorist, political affiliations, or even if they're happy or overweight.
Boston.com has a ton more on this and related studies, which you can read here. Afterward, hit the jump and tell us whether or not you think your Friends list reveals anything about you.
We may or may not recognize it, but fluid is a very integral part of our everyday lives. It decides everything from our fuel economy to (in some cases) how cool our computer runs. Until now, there was only one key way of deciphering the mechanics of fluids, and that was the Prandtl equation, developed in 1904. Sadly though, the Prandtl equation has many limitations, including only having the ability to calculate only two-dimensional problems, and a steady flow (such as that of a car traveling slowly). Thanks to a breakthrough by MIT’s George Haller, that’s all about to change.
A recently developed new equation, which is a product of four years of work by Professor Haller, will apply to three-dimensional and unsteady flows. This was confirmed with the aid of Thomas Peacock, the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Associate Professor at MIT, who lead experiments in order to validate the equation. Professor Peacock states, “This is the tip of the iceberg, but we’ve shown that this theory works.” The new work will probably go down as one of the greatest scientific advances of the decade, if it survives the peer review that will come.
This innovation in the mechanics of liquids will have an overwhelming influence on many industries, including aerospace, automotive and even computers. With these breakthroughs in calculating how liquids will act and perform in different environments, there’s no doubt that your PC’s liquid cooling system will soon get an overhaul.
Engineers have come up with a bit of sick technology, and we're not using that term as slang. Instead, they've found a way to assemble a key component of a microscopic battery using viruses, potentially paving the way for cheap and simple construction of pint-sized power sources.
The MIT group had previously been able to genetically engineer viruses to make a protein skin capable of attracting bits of metal, and this new research builds on that by having those same viruses build a specific part. In the MIT experiment, the genetically engineered viruses would help build the anode portion of a battery by attracting cobalt oxide. And more than just a proof of concept, the process has been drawing attention because of its ease-of-use and low cost.
One stumbling block preventing the widespread use of viruses in battery construction is a lack of application. There currently aren't any devices that would require a battery roughly one tenth the width of a human hair, though future applications could see the technology being used in nanotechnology.
Anyone else see the plot for a bad B-movie shaping up?
If the $100 laptop wasn’t enough a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is working on building a computer for $12, targeting families in Third World countries. They are basing their design on the old Nintendo Entertainment System. The NES used a MOS 6502 processor similar to the Apple IIe and Atari 2600 although it was a customized version for the NES.
The 6502 was designed in 1975. It is an 8-bit processor with a 16-bit address bus and clock speeds around 1 or 2 MHz. It is sure to smoke my digital watch.
Just how far the project will go is uncertain. Nintendo still holds the copyrights to the NES.
It sounds like a truly worthy project! You can check it out here.